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Kodi 14.2 Linux Tested on MeLE PCG03 with Ubuntu 15.04

April 7th, 2015 No comments

I’ve already tested Kodi 14.1 on MeLE PCG03 running Windows 8.1, with the Intel Atom Z3735F device performing greatly for 1080p videos, working DTS and Dolby pass-through (no HD Audio though) and automatic frame rate switching working at all frequencies I tested. Later I installed Lubuntu 15.04 on the mini PC, and I had planned to test Kodi 14.x in Linux to compare the performance in Windows 8.1. Unfortunately, I did not manage to mak HDMI audio, nor the audio jack work in Linux, so instead I purchased a cheap USB sound card from DealExtreme for around $2 US, and connected a pair of USB powered speakers to enable audio output.

Kodi 14.2 in MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

Kodi 14.2 in MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

The USB sound card performs pretty well, and out of the 80 or so videos I used for testing, only one had some saturation issues likely due to the sound card itself. I installed Kodi 14.2 using the recommended instructions for Ubuntu:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi

The refresh rate indicated in the System Information section oscillates around 30 fps, or a bit lower than the ~45 fps I got in Windows 8.1.

Unless otherwise noted, all videos has been played from a SAMBA share over an Ethernet connection. My findings should also be applicable to other Intel Atom Z3735F / Z3736F based mini PCs such as MeegoPad T01PiPo X7, or MINIX NEO Z64 provided you’ve also booted a Linux distribution on the devices. The only potential difference is thermal management, where devices that dissipate heat better may be able to sustain a constant frame rate for a longe period of time, especially for 60 fps videos. That’s also one of the reason you may want to switch from Windows 8.1 to Linux, as reported by one reader with Pipo X7, but personally I have not noticed slowdown on MeLE PCG03 for any videos.

The computer was connected to LG 42UB820T 4K Ultra HD television via HDMI, but the resolution was set to 1920×1080, the maximum supported by the hardware.

I’ve first played videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK. But Kodi reports decoding at 24 fps, instead of the video native 25 fps.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK, but the live framerate is around 24fps instead of 25 fps.
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p, 720p and 1080p – OK
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Linux seems to perform a bit better than Windows 8.1, especially as it can handle 720p and 1080p H.265 / HEVC video with were hardly watchable in videos. Real Media framerate is also more constant, but MPEG4 is not set at exactly to 25 fps like in Windows, something that’s not really noticeable to me.

Time for some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – Most of the time OK, but plays at 18 to 24 fps instead of 29.970 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB hard drive)

HDDVD video plays better in Windows 8.1 here as it could achieve a stable 24 fps.

High definition audio codecs below have only been tested using PCM downsampling, simply because HDMI audio is not working, and there’s no S/PDIF output. I’ll update the post with HDMI audio pass-through with Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver, once a software fix can be applied for HDMI audio.

Video’s Audio Codec PCM Output HDMI Pass-through SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK Not tested No S/PDIF Output on MeLE PCG03
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK Not tested
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Not tested
TrueHD 5.1 Audio cuts and slow mo at the end Not tested Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 7.1 OK Not tested
DTS HD Master OK Not tested
DTS HD High Resolution Slow motion video Not tested

While Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1 had no problems at all with all videos using PCM downsampling, Kodi 14.2 Linux struggled to play all videos perfectly.

Sintel-Bluray.iso could play fine, so unencrypted Bluray ISO are supported. My two 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play, but GridHD.mpg image sparkled (correct word here?). I’ve also been asked to test 10-bit H.264 1080p videos, but I could only find a 10-bit H.264 720p video sample ([Commie] Steins;Gate – NCED [BD 720p AAC] [10bit] [C706859E].mkv) which played flawlessly.

4K video output is not supported by the hardware, however the Atom processor can decode some 4K videos (e.g. H.264 codec), but newer H.265 and VP9 codec can’t be handled at that resolution:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – Plays, but not so smooth (18 fps instead of 29.97 fps)
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Kodi reports ~12 fps, but feels even slower
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – Kodi reports ~12 fps, but feels even slower
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) – Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Slow motion: 9 to 12 fps instead of 24 fps.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at about 13 fps.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)

Performance is quite similar between Ubuntu 15.04 and Windows 8.1, except for the “Chimei” video which played well in Windows, but not so smoothly in Linux.

Despite my TV not supporting 3D, I’ve also played some 3D videos to check video decoding capabilities:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – 25 fps instead of 60 fps, and audio cuts.
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Plays at about 8 fps, and frequent audio cuts.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Disappointment here for Kodi Linux, as in Windows the 1080p over/under video could play fine at 60 fps. The other two videos have about the same results.

All my AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, IFO and MP4 videos could play smoothly, and without A/V sync issues. However, while in Windows I had a very stable live framerate reported in Kodi debug overlay, it was fluctuating a bit more in Linux. I’m not entirely sure if it is just the way the frame rate is reported, or if there are real differences between the two, as videos seemed smooth in Linux too.

In Windows 8.1, I was also to play a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB), with Kodi reporting only 1 skipped frame over the whole movie, instead of the usual 14,000 or so skipped frames in Android. Kodi 14.2 in Ubuntu was also very good with that regards as only 2 skipped frame where reported… in my second try. The first try ended up after just over 30 minutes as the complete system froze, requiring a hard reboot. PCG03 froze another time as Kodi was idle, but maybe it’s because I’m using Ubuntu 15.04 Development Branch…

Finally I tested automatic frame rate switching with some motion bars video at different frame rates. First, I went to Settings->Video, changed the Settings level to Advanced, and set Adjust display refresh rate to match video to On start/stop. The results I got are exactly the same as in Windows 8.1, and this feature works very well. The “Video Output” is what shows when I press the Info button on the remote control of my TV:

  • 23.976 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 24 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 25 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 30 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 50 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 59.94 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 60 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60

Kodi 14.x performance in Windows 8.1 and Linux (Ubuntu) is quite similar in MeLE PCG03, but it looks like the GUI is rendered at a higher framerate in Windows, and the live framerate reported in Kodi debug overlay is more stable for most videos in Windows too. I’ve also had some stability issues in Linux with two system hangs, and two of the videos I use for audio codec testing did not play very smoothly. One advantage in Linux, or maybe Kodi 14.2, is that H.265 up to 1080p plays smoothly, something that was not feasible in Kodi 14.1 in Windows 8.1 when I tried last January.

If you want to experiment yourself, you can download the video samples used for my reviews. Mostly check the links in comments section.

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MeLE F10 Lite is an Air Mouse with Keyboard using 2x AAA Batteries

March 19th, 2015 4 comments

MeLE has several models of air mouse, and they are great to use with Android mini PCs, and sometimes I also use these with my regular PC. I started with the original MeLE F10, but then switched to MeLE F10 Deluxe which provides a better pointer control. It’s not perfect as game mode only works with MeLE media devices, I could never make the IR learning function work, and the pointer tends to jump when I press the OK button, so I’m using the mouse button for clicks instead as it does not suffer from this issue. Nevertheless, MeLE F10 Deluxe is still the device I prefer to use during my mini PCs and boards’ reviews. Previous MeLE F10 air mice all comes with a built-in battery, but some people prefer to use standard batteries, and that’s just what the latest MeLE F10 Lite uses, with other features similar to the Deluxe version.

MeLE_F10_LiteMeLE F10 Lite hardware specification:

  • Radio – 2.4GHz RF; distance: 10 meters
  • Sensors – G-sensor, 6-axis gyroscope
  • QWERTY Keyboard and remote buttons with 100,000 presses lifespan
  • Power – 2x AAA batteries; auto-sleep time: 2 minutes

The remote ships with a tiny RF dongle, and a user’s manual. The QWERTY keyboard appears to be the same as on the Deluxe version, but the remote side has sadly lost the play/pause, FFWD, and FRWD buttons, and only supports one device for the IR learning function instead for three. Beside Android, the input device can also be used with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 and Mac OS X.

MeLE F10 Lite can be pre-ordered for $24.99 on Aliexpress, but you should be able to lower that to $19.99 with a $5 discount that you can get on the Aliexpress page. The official price for Lite is $24.99, and Deluxe is $34.99, but if you may also purchase the Deluxe version for $26.99 on GeekBuying.

Via AndroidPC.es

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Categories: Android, Hardware, Linux Tags: Android, Linux, mele, windows

Calaos is an Open Source Home Automation Suite for Raspberry Pi, Allwinner A10/A20 and x86 Platforms

March 9th, 2015 No comments

Calaos is a Linux based home automation software released under GPLv3 license that works on Raspberry Pi, some Allwinner platforms like Cubiebaord 1/2, Mele A1000(G)/A2000, as well as x86 / amd64 hardware platforms that allows you control switches & lights in the rooms of your home or office, control your music, and manage security cameras.. The developers have recently released Calaos v2.0, the first stable release, so it’s a good time to have a look.

Calaos WebApp

Calaos WebApp

The software stack is comprised of 6 main components:

  • Calaos Server – Daemon that exports the state of the house via a JSON protocol. It can currently manage the following hardware components and protocols:
    Calaos Mobile

    Calaos Mobile

    • Wago’s PLC, with digital or analog I/O, DALI or DMX light bus
    • IPX800 web relay board
    • GCE Electronics Eco Devices used to monitor power consumption.
    • Web API
    • 1-Wire, X10
    • Zibase I/O
    • GPIO (Linux based GPIO, for direct use of RaspberryPI GPIO header) ;
    • Squeezebox
    • Nabaztag (Karotz). That’s a connected Wi-Fi enabled rabbit :)
    • CCTV IP (Axis, Mjpeg…)
  • Calaos Home –  Touchscreen interface to control the home, developed with EFL.
  • Calaos WebApp –  Web based interface implemented in HTML5 and using Angular JS and Bootstrap. Shown in screenshot above.
  • Calaos OS –  Linux distribution based on Openembedded pre-loaded with Calaos Server, Calaos Home and Calaos WebApp and relevant tools. That’s what you’ll need to get started easily, as you just need to download the image for your hardware.
  • Calaos Mobile – Qt5/QML app for Android and iOS tablet and smartphones that allows you to control Calaos remotely. However, only a subset of functions are available compared to Calaos Home.
  • Calaos Installer – Contrary to what the name implies, this Qt5 app does not install Calaos, but allows you to configure Calaos Server remotely, by adding, removing or modifying inputs/outputs on your PC, instead of editing configuration files manually. It also supports LUA scripts
Calaos Installer

Calaos Installer

You can have a better look at the user interface in the video section of the website, and I’ve also included a short video showing the Raspberry Pi connected to a 10″ touchscreen LCD  running Calaos Home.

You can find more details, and documentation on Calaos website, including a Quick Start Guide for the Raspberry Pi. The source code is available on Calaos github account.

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How To Install Ubuntu 15.04 on MeLE PCG03 Intel Mini PC

February 13th, 2015 29 comments

I’ve already spent some time to test MeLE PCG03 Bay Trail-T mini PC in Windows 8.1, including a detailed video and audio review in Kodi 14.1. Since I don’t have anything else to do with Windows on the machine, I’ve decided to install Ubuntu instead, completely wiping out Windows 8.1. Since you pay around $30 for the Windows license, MeLE PCG03 is not the ideal platform computer for this little exercise due to the extra cost, but it should also work with other Intel Atom Z3735F based computer that may not come with a license.

Lubuntu 15.04 on MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

Lubuntu 15.04 on MeLE PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

At first I planed to go with Ubuntu 14.10 Mate ISO image, and it boots fine, but was curious to try from “scratch” with another ISO, so I went with Ubuntu 15.04 Alpha 2 (64-bit) image. I just went to the first link Google Search provided me and did not pay attention enough, and ended-up install Lubuntu instead, but you should be able to use any Linux AMD64 ISO with the instructions below.

The first step is to create a bootable USB flash drive.

So after downloading vivid-desktop-amd64.iso with BitTorrent, I started a Windows 7 virtual machine (but I could have done it directly in MeLE PCG03 instead), downloaded and install Rufus (Rufus 1.4.22), and create a bootable USB flash drive with the following options:

  • GPT partition scheme for UEFI computer
  • FAT32 with 32KB cluster (Other insructions recommend 64KB, but it was not available in the drop list).
  • LIVECD label (maybe not important) and vivid-desktop-amd64.iso image

Rufus_Ubuntu_Bay_TrailMake sure Rufus has selected the right Device, and click on “Start”.

Once this is done, you’ll need to download bootia32.efi, and copy it in /EFI/BOOT folder in the USB flash drive.

Now connect the USB flash to your MeLE PCG03 or other Intel Bay Trail-T device, power the device, press F7 to get to the UEFI menu, and select your USB flash drive in order to boot into Ubuntu 15.04.

If all you want to do is try Ubuntu (or the other Linux 64-bit ISO image you’ve selected), you are done.

But let’s install it instead. MeLE provided instructions to re-install Windows on PCG03, but when I asked for the firmware files, they kept quiet…, so you may want to backup your Windows installation first.

There are three partitions:

sudo fdisk -l /dev/mmcblk0
Disk /dev/mmcblk0: 29.1 GiB, 31268536320 bytes, 61071360 sectors
 Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
 Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
 I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
 Disklabel type: gpt
 Disk identifier: 8665F60E-4024-4C68-9E4E-57DCF3C2278F

Device          Start      End  Sectors  Size Type
 /dev/mmcblk0p1   2048   616447   614400  300M Microsoft basic data
 /dev/mmcblk0p2 616448   821247   204800  100M EFI System
 /dev/mmcblk0p3 821248 61069311 60248064 28.7G Microsoft basic data

Which I backed up as follows:

sudo apt-get install pv
sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0p1 | pv | dd of=WIN_P1.img bs=16M
sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0p2 | pv | dd of=WIN_P2.img bs=16M
sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0p3 | pv | dd of=WIN_P3.img bs=16M

But it might be a better idea to just get a single file:

sudo dd if=/dev/mmcblk0 | pv | dd of=WIN_MELEPCG03.img bs=16M

That way in case you want to re-flash Windows, start Linux from the USB flash drive, and re-install it with:

sudo dd if=WIN_MELEPCG03.img | pv | sudo dd of=/dev/mmcblk0 bs=16M

So you won’t need to potentially have to re-partition the eMMC flash with gparted, as would be the case for a separate backup file for each partition.

I’ve then re-partitioned the eMMC flash to format p3 as ext-4 and add a fourth partition for a 2GB swap, which may not be ideal on flash based device due to wear and tear:

sudo gparted /dev/mmcblk0

MeLE_PCG03_Ubuntu_PartitionsNow click on Install Lubuntu 15.04, and follow the instructions until they ask about the installation type (erase everything, install side-by-side..), where you need to select “Something Else”, and set:

  1. /dev/mmcblk0p3 to ext4 mount to /
  2. /dev/mmcblk0p4 to swap
  3. I’ve also changed “Device for boot loader installation” to /dev/mmcblk0p2, but it might not be necessary to change that part.
Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Carry on with the installation. Once it’s complete, you’ll still need to boot from USB one more time in order to install the 32-bit version of grub. Reboot, press F7, select your USB drive, and once you are in Grub (showing Ubuntu, Advanced options for Ubuntu, Windows Boot Manager, System setup), press ‘c’ to enter the grub terminal, and type the following commands in order to load the kernel and initramfs, and boot from the internal flash:

linux (hd1,gpt3)/boot/vmlinuz-3.18.0-13-generic root=/dev/mmcblk0p3
initrd (hd1,gpt3)/boot/initrd-3.18.0-13-generic
boot

The exact command will depend on your device and chosen linux distribution, but since grub support auto-completion it’s quite easy. For type “linux (hd”, and press tab to select the right drive and partition, then “/boot/vm”, and press tab again to select the right kernel, and so on.

Login into Ubuntu with the username / password you selected during installation, make sure you’ve connected an Ethernet cable,. and install 32-bit grub with efi support:

sudo apt-get install grub-efi-ia32 grub-efi-ia32-bin
sudo cp /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu/grubia32.efi /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu/grubx64.efi
sudo update-grub2

And now you’re done… Depending on your platform, you may also need to check your BIOS settings to make sure Secure Boot is disabled, and in my case at the beginning I had either a black screen (Ubuntu) or just the two lines (Advanced options for Ubuntu):

Loading Linux 3.18.0.13-generic....
Loading initial ramdisk...

So I went to the BIOS in Advanced->Security Configuration, and disabled Intel TXE, which seems to have made the trick.

Intel_TXE_BIOSBoot time takes about 12 seconds from the time I press enter in grub to the login screen.

I haven’t tested it much for now, except from some web browsing, and playing YouTube in Firefox (very slow), but before doing my deeply into testing, I’d like to find out a way to enable audio on the platform, at least via the 3.5mm headphone jack, as HDMI audio may be more complicated. A workaround tried by other people is to use a USB sound card. Here’s the full boot log where you’ll see that the audio chipset (ALC5640) is detected, but the driver (byt-rt5640) fails to initialize it.

I adapted instructions from the three sources below:

  1. Linuxium triple boot method (Android, Windows, Linux) on MeegoPad T01.
  2. Ubuntu on Bay Trail tablets.
  3. Installing Ubuntu on Asus T100’s internal flash
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Kodi 14 Video Playback on Intel Atom Z3735F Computers Running Windows 8.1

January 31st, 2015 40 comments

I’ve already written a short review of Mele PCG03 mini PC powered by Intel Atom Z3735F processor, with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC flash, where I found out that almost it’s not the fastest device around, it’s still usable for most tasks, albeit you can quickly run out of space with only 32GB storage, so if you really plan to use it as an actual computer using applications such as email clients, web browser and office suites, an external USB hard drive, or connection to a NAS is probably a must, or you’ll probably have to run Disk Cleaner fairly often.  Mele PCG03 also have a valid Windows 8.1 license, and a VGA port, both of which are often missing on many other Bay Trail-T mini PCs.

Kodi 14.1 on Mele PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

Kodi 14.1 on Mele PCG03 (Click for Original Size)

I’ve now installed Kodi 14.1 – downloaded directly from xbmc.org – on this low cost and low power computer, in order to go through my video test files, and see how it performs compared to the many ARM based Android TV boxes I’ve tested in the past. I’ve played the videos over Ethernet from a SAMBA share on an Ubuntu 14.04 machine, unless otherwise noted. I full expect the results to be identical on other Intel Atom Z3735 / Z3736 based mini PCs such as MeegoPad T01 or Pipo X7.

The device was connected to LG 42UB820T, a 4K UltraHD television, but the maximum output resolution supported by the box is 1080p60 (1920×1080), so that’s the output resolution I used for testing.

Let’s get started with videos samples from samplemedia.linaro.org, plus some H.265/HEVC videos (Elecard), and a low resolution VP9 video:

  • H.264 codec / MP4 container (Big Buck Bunny), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • MPEG2 codec / MPG container, 480p/720p/1080p – OK. But XBMC reports decoding at 24 fps, instead of the video native 25 fps.
  • MPEG4 codec, AVI container 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • VC1 codec (WMV), 480p/720p/1080p – OK
  • Real Media (RMVB), 720p / 5Mbps – RV8, RV9, and RV10 – OK, but at 720p and 1080p video is played at about 22 fps instead of 25 fps.
  • WebM / VP8 – OK
  • H.265 codec / MPEG TS container – 360p and 720p OK, 1080p video is not really watchable (15 fps), and audio cuts.
  • WebM / VP9 (no audio in video) – OK

Followed by some higher bitrate videos:

  • ED_HD.avi – OK
  • big_buck_bunny_1080p_surround.avi (1080p H.264 – 12 Mbps) – OK.
  • h264_1080p_hp_4.1_40mbps_birds.mkv (40 Mbps) – OK
  • hddvd_demo_17.5Mbps_1080p_VC1.mkv (17.5Mbps) – OK, but plays at 24 fps instead of 29.970 fps
  • Jellyfish-120-Mbps.mkv (120 Mbps video without audio) – OK (using USB hard drive)

High definition audio codecs below have only been tested using PCM output over HDMI, as I’ll still waiting for Speakers to go with my AV receiver. So HDMI pass-through is still To Be Tested (TBT), and S/PDIF won’t be tested since there’s no S/PDIF output on MeLE’s mini PC. I expect to update the table with HDMI pass-through in about a week. I’ve now tested HDMI audio pass-through using Onkyo TX-NR636 AV receiver. I selected WASAPI audio device in Kodi, and enabled all codecs below.

Video’s Audio Codec HDMI PCM Output HDMI Pass-through SPDIF Pass-through
AC3 / Dolby Digital 5.1 OK OK No S/PDIF Output on MeLE PCG03
E-AC-3 / Dolby Digital+ 5.1 OK OK
Dolby Digital+ 7.1 OK Some audio but frequent cuts
TrueHD 5.1 OK No audio Audio Formats Not Supported over S/PDIF
TrueHD 7.1 OK No audio
DTS HD Master OK No audio
DTS HD High Resolution OK No audio

I could play Sintel-Bluray.iso without problem, so Bluray ISO are supported. I’ve been told encrypted ISO might be more problematic, but I don’t have any sample to test. 1080i MPEG2 videos (GridHD.mpg & Pastel1080i25HD.mpg) could also play.

Intel Atom Z3735F processor does not support 4K video output, however it can still decode some 4K videos (H.264), but both H.265 and VP9 are out of reach:

  • HD.Club-4K-Chimei-inn-60mbps.mp4 – OK
  • sintel-2010-4k.mkv – OK
  • Beauty_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – XBMC reports playback at about 10 fps, but I looks like 2 to 3 fps to me.
  • Bosphorus_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_MP4.mp4 (H.265) – XBMC reports playback at about 10 fps, but I looks like 2 to 3 fps to me.
  • Jockey_3840x2160_120fps_420_8bit_HEVC_TS.ts (H.265) –  Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)
  • MHD_2013_2160p_ShowReel_R_9000f_24fps_RMN_QP23_10b.mkv (10-bit HEVC) – Slow notion playback, just like other H.265 videos.
  • phfx_4KHD_VP9TestFootage.webm (VP9) – Plays at about 10 fps.
  • BT.2020.20140602.ts (Rec.2020 compliant video) – Won’t play at all (stays in XBMC UI)

I’ve also played some 3D videos:

  • bbb_sunflower_1080p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (1080p Over/Under) – OK (Decoded at 60 fps as it should)
  • bbb_sunflower_2160p_60fps_stereo_abl.mp4 (2160p Over/Under) – Plays at about 10 fps, and frequent audio cuts.
  • Turbo_Film-DreamWorks_trailer_VO_3D.mp4 (1080p SBS) – OK

Please note that My TV does not support 3D, so I only tested video decoding capability.

All my AVI, MKV, FLV, VOB, IFO and MP4 videos could play smmothly, without A/V sync issues, and contrary to XBMC Android, the reported framerate is extremely stable. In most, if not all, Android media players, it’s quite common to see 24 fps videos, being played at  a reported 22 to 25 fps according to XBMC live log window. But in ths test, the vast majority of videos played exactly and constantly at the native framerate.

All the video above where played over Ethernet, but I switched to Wi-Fi, but my reliability test, consisting of playing a full 1080p movie (1h50 / MKV / 3GB). XBMC reported only 1 skipped frame over the whole movie, while in Android TV boxes I usually get 14,000 skipped frames for the complete movie.

I also wanted to test automatic frame rate switching, so I went to Settings->Video, changed the Settings level to Advanced, and set Adjust display refresh rate to match video to On start/stop. And got the following results using the Info button on the remote control of my TV for the video output:

  • 23.976 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 24 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p24
  • 25 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 30 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 50 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p50
  • 59.94 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60
  • 60 fps video -> Video Output: 1080p60

So it’s mostly working. If I open Intel HD Graphics Control Panel, the following refresh rate are available: 23p, 24p, 25p, 29p, 30p, 50p, 50i, 59p, 59i, 60p, and 60i, and I can set any of these refresh rates, but for example, when I set 59p, and press the Info button on the remote of my LG TV, I only see 1080p60, so it’s difficult to know exactly what’s going on for refresh rates such as 23.976 or 59.94 fps.

Anyway, the conclusion is excluding the lack of H.265 codec and 4K video output support, that’s clearly the best experience I’ve had using XBMC / Kodi on any low cost hardware platform, as all 1080p or lower resolution videos could be played, the vast majority at the native video framerate, H.264 4K videos are playing fine (but outputted to 1080p), and automatic frame rate switching is working. [Update: 4K video are limited to 30 fps, as the system can’t handle 4K 60fps at full rate]

Links to various video samples used in this review and be found in “Where to get video, audio and images samples” post and comments.

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MeLE PCG03 mini PC Review and Benchmarks with Windows 8.1 with Bing

January 29th, 2015 11 comments

MeLE PCG03 is an Intel Atom Z3735F mini PC with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC. I’ve already posted some pictures of the device and board, and since Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE (with proper license) is installed, I’ll first test the device with Microsoft OS as reference, before trying Ubuntu or/and Android.

MeLE PCG03 Setup

The computer comes only with a power adapter, so you’ll need to find an HDMI or/and VGA cable for your display(s), and USB keyboard and mouse to get started. Optionally, you’ll also want an Ethernet cable, and since storage is limited an extra storage device be it a USB hard drive, flash drive, or SD card.

Once all is connected you can press the power button on the left side to boot the device. The boot normally takes about 20 seconds, but the first time, you’ll go through the usual Windows 8.1 setup (I assume), including country, time zone and language selection: 中文简体, 中文繁體, English, Français, Deutsch, Italiano, Nederlands, espanol, Português (Brazil or Portugal), русский, Čeština, slovenščina, ,فارسی Polski, українська, العربية  or .עברית If your local language is not listed then you are out of luck.

You’ll also have to create a local account, or sign-in with an MSN account, and you should be done. So the process is pretty much straightforward.

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

Windows 8.1 Interface (Click for Original)

mele_pcg03_resolution

Click to Enlarge

The screenshot above is after cleaning up the junk a bit, and adding my own app. The box is connected to my 4K TV, but the maximum resolution supported by the device is 1920×1080, and the lowest 1024×768. You may also connect an extra monitor via the VGA port for a dual display setup. I’ll demo this below in this post.

Mele PCG03 System Info

Let’s get some more details about the system.
mele_pcg03_PC_info
As advertised the system comes with a Z3735F processor, 2GB RAM, and the 32-bit version of Windows 8.1 with Bing activated. I also received a Windows Update while testing. The company also told me it would be possible to recover the firmware, but did not provide a link. They’ve just provided their FAQ explaining how to upgrade the firmware, and configure other things like audio and video output.

mele_PCG03_storageThere’s a 28.7GB partition out of the 32GB eMMC, and about 16 GB free space. The screenshot above is after installing Firefox and Crystal Disk Benchmark.

mele_pcg03_device_manager_large

Click to Enlarge

The Device Manager shows the list of devices, but we already knew about the hardware with tear-down. Realtek RTL8723 (BS) is also used in Meegopad T01 and Pipo X7, which should be good news for Android and Linux support.

mele_pcg03_hwinfoI ran also HWiNFO32 to get more details about the CPU, which is incorrectly detected as Z3735D, but the other information should be correct, as both processor are very similar.

In case you wonder about the BIOS, it’s basically the same AMI Bios as other Intel Atom Z3735F devices.

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

AMI BIOS UEFI 2.3 (Click to Enlarge)

You can watch that video to see all options. This is for MeegoPad T01, but the BIOS is bascially the same, except the one in PCG03 has been built one month earlier.

MeLE PCG03 Benchmarks

PCMARK 8 is a standard benchmark for Windows, and covers lots of area include office use, video conferencing, gaming, web browsing and so on. I downloaded the basic version, and ran the baseline test.

mele_pcg03_pcmark_8

PCMark 8 on MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 gots 1,105 points in PCMARK 8 HOME CONVENTIONAL 3.0 test. The software somehow detected an Intel Core i7-5960X…
It’s the first time I’ve run this benchmark so looked for some comparison online. For example an Intel Core i7-920 processor with Nvidia GeForce GTX770 gets 2,610 points. I was expecting a larger gap, but if you look into the details, you’ll find that Casual gaming  is 10 times faster in the more powerful computer.

I measured the temperature on top and bottom of the enclosure right about the benchmark at respectively 39 °C and 46 °C, so that part is under control.

The internal storage is a Samsung eMMC 5.0 flash, and performance does show.

mele_pcg03_disk_benchmarkMeLE PCG03 Usability Testing

Benchmarks are nice, but nothing it worth and hands-on experience, so I’ve shot a video showing the device, some settings including storage and display,  and tasks that may be challenging in competing ARM Linux hardware platforms:

  • Web Browsing in Firefox
    • Loading CNX Software
    • Playing an Embedded Video
    • Playing a 1080p Video in Full Screen mode
    • Playing a flash game  (Candy Crush Saga)
  • Gaming with Asphalt 8
  • Kodi with 4K video playback
  • Dual display support with HDMI TV and VGA monitor

The refresh rate of my camera and the 4K TV does not match, so at time (desktop and web browsing), the video is a pain to watch but hopefully, it will give an idea of the performance and capabilities of this mini PC.

So overall the device is quite usable, but I experienced obvious stuttering while playing 1080p YouTube videos (Embedded or Full Screen), and animation in Candy Crush Saga were pretty slow. The good news was I could play some 4K videos in Kodi (albeit outputted to 1080p), and Asphalt 8 is running reasonably well, although a higher frame rate would be nice. With the wave of Intel Bay Trail mini PC, the VGA port is clearly a strong point of this box, especially dual display is working as it should. If you really intend to use this device as a PC for web browsing, emails (Outlook. Thunderbird),  and an office suite, you’ll likely to run out of space pretty quickly, so an external storage device is a must.

Mele_PCG03_Blue_Screen_Of_Death

If you miss Microsft BSOD, don’t worry it’s alive and well! :) This happened when I connected the hard drive via a USB hub, instead of directly to a USB port on the device. Maybe a power issue?

That’s all for today. I’ll write a separate post to thoroughly test video playback in Kodi Windows, and then try alternative operating systems such as Ubuntu and Android, and compare how they perform versus Windows 8.1.

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MeLE PCG03 Windows 8.1 Fanless mini PC Unboxing

January 26th, 2015 11 comments

MeLE PCG03 was announced in October 2014 with an aggressive price tag of $49 for large orders for barebone systems, and was said to support Windows 8.1 or Android 4.4. MeLE is PCG03 now is now available with 2GB RAM, and 32GB eMMC, and with a properly licensed “Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE”, but no Android for $149 on Ebay, or Aliexpress, and it should eventually show up on MeLE Amazon store. The company sent me a sample for review, so I’ll start by listing the updated specifications, and taking pictures today, before running benchmarks, trying out Kodi, and trying Ubuntu in other posts.

MeLE PCG03 Specifications

The look of the device and available ports have slightly changed since the first prototype was revealed last year.

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735F “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – 2 GB DDR3L
  • Storage – 32 GB eMMC + SD card slot (up to 512 GB)
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, and VGA
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, 3.5mm earphone jack
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0
  • USB – 3x USB 2.0 host
  • Misc – Power Button, power LED, Kensington security lock, small battery (for RTC?)
  • Power Supply – 12V/1A (12W max)
  • Dimensions – 150 x 120 x 40 mm
  • Weight – 360 grams

The system runs “Windows 8.1 with Bing NTE”, the official Microsoft operating system for mini PCs according to MeLE.

MeLE PCG03 Unboxing Pictures

I’ve received the device by Fedex in the following package.
Mele_PCG03_Package
The number of accessories is quite minimal compared to ARM based Android mini PCs with just a 12V/1A power adapter, and a Quick Start Guide.

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

Mini PC, Power Supply, and Quick Start Guide (Click to Enlarge)

The device’s enclosure is made of two parts with the top made of plastic, and the bottom and rear panel made of metal.

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

MeLE PCG03 (Click to Enlarge)

The front panel has an LED, abnd button (with no purpose), one side comes with a USB 2.0 host port, an SD card slot, and the power button, and the reat panel features most of the ports: kensington slot, power jack, VGA output, HDMI output, Ethernet port, two more USB 2.0 host port, the Wi-Fi antenna, and the earphone jack.
You can check out the unboxing video if you prefer.

MeLE PCG03 Tear-down

My favorite part of the unboxing post is to open the box to see what’s inside, and MeLE PCG03 is made to be opened so everything is pretty straightforward and comes out easily. First remove four screws on the bottom of the enclosure, and two screws on the rear panel to lift up the plastic top.

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

Top of Board (Click to Enlarge)

The solution is comprised of a baseboard and a system-on-module. The Wi-Fi module is based on Realtek RTL8723BS. Other chips on the baseboard include ASIX AX88772CLF USB 2.0 to Fast Ethernet controller, Realtek ALC5640 multi-channel audio hub, and Analogix ANX9833 DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Intel Atom Z3735F being mostly a tablet SoC, they had to use a few extra chips to add missing features like Ethernet and VGA output, btu I guess it’s a bit still cheaper than using more powerful Bay Trail-D processor like Celeron J1800. Three headers are unpopulated on the right of the board, but I’m not sure what they are for.

Bottom and Board and "Heatsink" (Click to Enlarge)

Bottom and Board and “Heatsink” (Click to Enlarge)

I’ve removed four more screws to completely take out the board.  There’s an opening on the baseboard to let the Intel processor touch the thermal pad placed on top of the metallic case.

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Bay Trail CPU Module (Click to Enlarge)

Finally, I’ve taken out the CPU module by removing two tiny screws, and pushing on the metallic bits on the side of the connector. I assume this is a proprietary solution so if somehow you could upgrade the module it would have to be purchased from MeLE, but with USB 2.0 and Fast Ethernet, I’m not sure an upgrade would be that interesting any way. Intel Atom Z3735F is the shiny chip in the center of the board, and is coupled with four Samsung K4B4G1646q-HYKO DDR3L chips, and a Samsung KLMBG4GEAC-B031, a Class 2000 eMMC 5.0 flash with 32GB capacity and read and write speed rated respectively at 240 and 60 MB/s. X-Powers AXP288 is the power management IC.

 

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Mele PCG03 Intel Quad Core mini PC Sells for $49 and Up (Factory Price)

October 13th, 2014 19 comments

Mele is currently showcasing a mini PC powered by Intel Atom Z3735D quad core processor at the Hong Kong Electronics Fair, and the company has started taking OEM orders for $49 (MOQ 1000) for the barebone model without memory.

Mele_PCG03

Mele PCG03 Specifications:

  • SoC – Intel Atom Z3735D “Bay Trail” quad core processor @ 1.33 GHz (Bust freq: 1.83 GHz) with Intel HD graphics
  • System Memory – Optional 1 or 2 GB DDR3
  • Storage – Optional 16, 32, or 64 GB eMMC + micro SD slot
  • Video Output – HDMI 1.4, VGA and Composite (RCA),
  • Audio I/F – HDMI, Stereo RCA, optical S/PDIF, and MIC and earphone jack.
  • Connectivity – 10/100M Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • USB – 2x USB 2.0 host
  • Power Supply – N/A
    Mele_PCG03_Rear_Panel

The box will run either Windows 8.1 or Android. I’m a little confused to what “barebone” means for this type of mini PC because the DDR3 and eMMC chips are most probably soldered to the board, so a barebone model would simply be unusable. Or maybe my assumption is wrong, and you can insert SO-DIMM modules. On the video & audio front, Mele claims it can handle 4K UHD / 1080p videos and Live TV, VOD, XBMC, YouTube, Netflix… apps, as well as Dolby Digital and DTS.

Via Cngadget

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